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Stephane Leonard: 'Lykkelig Dyr" bound for Bremen and Brooklyn

img  Tobias
Leonard has had to burn quite a few bridges to get this far. In fact, he even sold his life insurance to be able to buy himself a much-coveted laptop after a concert fiasco in Hamburg devastated his trust in Guitars and Keyboards (“I couldn´t handle all the sounds and loops at the same time”). Now, he still uses them in the studio, but has switched to remixing his own pieces in the live situation. As a visual artist, the graphic aspect of Software Sequencers has also been a bonus: “The computer allows me to pretend that I am a complete band and it also helps me to find the sounds I am interested in, plus having a visual image of my compositions. I like seeing sound data and the different tracks and all that.”

At home, however, the sheer infinite possibilities of computer technology almost overwhelmed him. Leonard did away with restrictions at the outset, promising himself not to be bound by any kind of concept. Sometimes, he would start with a single sound or nothing but a formal idea, improvising wildly on other occasions. Creatively, this period of complete freedom was pure heaven. In practical terms, though, the idea of being able to distill ten tracks from the huge amount of data he was amassing on his hard disc simply proved to be naive: “Everytime I learned something new I started to destroy older pieces again. Kasper from Heilskabaal (the dutch record label which published ‘Lykkelig Dyr’) basically safed me from never getting it done. When he wrote his first mail that he might be interested in publishing my upcoming record I immediantly started mixing and minimising the stuff I wrote so far and luckily about 13 or 14 pieces came out of it. For the record we chose 10 and I feel it works out perfectly.”

He indeed has every reason to be proud, because the combination of tender bleeps and dots, percussive drones and open electro-acoustic spaces has turned out warm and coherent, nicely rough at times, yet strangely moving all the same. Mostly between two and four minutes of length, these tracks are also marked by a pleasant conciseness quite atypical for a genre polluted by endless, pointlessly meandering jam sessions. There is both a grittiness and accessibility to "Lykkelig Dyr" which makes it stand out from the fold. To Leonard, it is clear that the New York connection was responsible for this melange: “So many things happened there. It was never quiet, so that my music sometimes functioned as an escape from the chaos and sometimes I just wanted and needed to amplify the noise. ‘Lykkelig Dyr’ has both things on it - calm and quiet parts and rather chaotic and wild moments.”

Using many different nuances was a conscious decision, as the record also represents an important part in his quest of finding a unique personal approach: “I express myself through sound and by doing that I try to whisper or speak or scream in a tone which exists beyond language. Using a language of my own - finding that language is always very important to me and so I always set my goals high. I am not sure if I actually found a style or what I am looking for on ‘Lykkelig Dyr’ but I definitely reached a new level in my own development.”

As a diversely talented artist, there was never a lack of ideas – even though some of these proved to be inherently impossible: “You have to make a lot of decisions when writing music and some of those decisions are influenced by decisions I make when editing a film or working on a drawing. Sometimes I think it would be great to hear the beginning and the end of a piece at the same time and that wish is probably inspired by drawing and painting or when thinking about dramaturgic peaks or curves I know I am thinking film.”

All of this indicates that “Lykkelig Dyr” has, above all, provided him with a plethora of insights about himself and his art, all of which are sure to trickle into future projects. One of them is his promising collaboration with Oystein Hvamen Rasmussen (“He is a great drummer who is also very interested in sound research. We are very much on the same page”), with whom he recorded as yet unedited material in the middle of the Swedish forrest. And then, of course, Stephane Leonard has recently returned to his home of Berlin – let’s see how this will influence his sound, as he continues his search for a new language.

“Lykkelig Dyr” has been released as a limited edition Vinyl LP on Heilskabaal and a limited CD on Naiv Super.

Homepage: Stephane Leonard
Homepage: Heilskabaal Records
Homepage: Naiv Super Records

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